Fashion designers are experts in the manipulation of fabric. Ron Isaacs has pioneered a new sartorial artistry specializing in the manipulation of wood.
His fashionable masterpieces are crafted from Finnish birch plywood and acrylic paint according to a “trompe l’oiel” (fool the eye) technique. This optical illusion creates a convincing similarity to fabric, employing meticulous shadowing and three-dimensional texturing that mimic folds and ruffles.
The sculptural garments, though executed through painstaking technique (some of his pieces require hundreds of pieces of wood), achieves a form that seems quite effortless and fluid.
Isaacs’ favors a vintage fashion aesthetic clothing, blending concepts of clothing with natural elements, like leaves, flowers or birds.
According to Isaacs:
My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. They combine in appropriate or surprising juxtapositions, sometimes purely as a visual “poem” of sorts and (if I’m lucky) sometimes as an image with real psychological resonance. Objects occasionally reappear in other contexts and take on new meanings, like a repertory company of actors playing different roles in different plays.
Claes Oldenburg once declared the harder he looked at a thing, the more mysterious it became. That notion is my muse.
I could use real objects to make assemblages, installations, or collages, but that’s too direct. My basic technique of building elaborate relief constructions of Finnish birch plywood and painting them in trompe l’oeil fashion has its own deep satisfactions of process and problem- solving, but it also serves as a means to understanding the objects. Trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) could be a gimmick to show off technical skills – a fairly shallow if entertaining enterprise – but for me it’s a way of expressing my love of the visual world. I would hope that whatever technical skill I have might be seen as being in the service of my personal vision and not as an end in itself.
That an object made of one material can take on the outward appearance and “reality” of another is of great importance to me– and perhaps part of the reason that historically, making art became allied with making magic.)